State Capacity, Encirclement, and Ethnic Violence
How does the repressive capacity of a state affect the onset of violence perpetrated by ethnic minorities? This paper goes beyond the size and spending scale of the national military and conceptualizes repressive state capacity as a state's ability to encircle potential minority rebels with an ethno-national population allegiant to the central government. It argues that encirclement can isolate potential rebels from personnel and information transfer across international and domestic borders, and from executing successful retreat in case of an armed confrontation with the government. To test the theory, I compiled a novel dataset on 100 counties and 174 state-sponsored Han Chinese settlements (i.e. bingtuan) in Xinjiang, China. I find that counties surrounded by bingtuan settlements from multiple directions that form an encirclement are associated with significantly fewer violent minority insurgencies. Counties simply having a larger number of Han settlements have not seen fewer violent incidents. The results are robust to controlling for a variety of economic, demographic, and bureaucratic conditions. The paper highlights the sophistication in the spatial placement, as opposed to the size, of national security forces in affecting ethnic conflict onset.